Christ the Good Shepherd

‘I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me.’ In these words it is as if our Lord were saying: ‘Those who love me, obey me.‘ Certainly, those who do not love the truth cannot yet know it.

My dear brothers and sisters, let us reflect upon how these words of our Lord imply a test of our own. Ask yourselves first if you are indeed sheep of Jesus; and secondly, if you know him and recognize the light of truth. We recognize truth not simply by faith but by love. You recognize truth not by the assent of the intellect, but by the love you express in your deeds. As the apostle John says: ‘Those who say that they love God, but disobey his commandments, are liars.’

Jesus goes on to add the following words: ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I will give them eternal life.’ A little earlier he said also: ‘If any enter by me, they will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.‘ That is to say, they will go in by faith, and go out from faith to vision, from belief to contemplation, and will find pasture in the eternal banquet God has prepared. The Lord’s sheep will find the Lord’s pastures. Those who follow Christ with an undivided heart will be nourished in pastures that are forever green. And what are such pastures if not the most profound joy of feeding in the everlasting fields of paradise? For the pasture of the saints is to see God face to face. When the vision of God never fades, the soul is filled with an abundance of food for eternal life.

And so dear friends, let us seek these pastures and join the throng of the citizens of heaven. Let their happiness and celebration be an invitation to us. Let our hearts grow warm; let our faith be rekindled; let our desire for the things of heaven increase; for to love in this way is indeed to be on the way. We should allow no misfortune to distract us from this happiness and deep joy; for if you are determined to reach the destination of your spiritual journey the roughness of the road will not deter you. Nor should the delights of material prosperity in this life ever entice you astray; only the foolish traveler, spotting a pleasant field on the way, forgets that he is en route to a greater destination.

— From a homily by Gregory the Great (540-604)


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